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Russia Expert Stephen Cohen Asserts Zelensky Needs Trump To Back Kiev Overture to Putin

Nov. 16, 2019 (EIRNS)—Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at New York University and Princeton University, and one of the most knowledgeable experts on Russia, was interviewed on Nov. 13 by Aaron Maté in his PushBack media on The Grayzone website, on the situation in Ukraine. Cohen said that President Volodymyr Zelensky ran as a “peace candidate,” pledging to end the war in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine, winning a landslide with over 70% of the vote.

“So, that means he has to negotiate with Vladimir Putin,” Cohen said.

“But his willingness—and this is what’s important and not well reported here—his willingness to deal directly with Putin, which his predecessor, Poroshenko, was not or couldn’t for whatever reason, actually required considerable boldness on Zelensky’s part, because there are opponents of this in Ukraine and they are armed. Some people say they’re fascists, but they’re certainly ultra-nationalist, and they have said that they will remove and kill Zelensky if he continues along this line of negotiating with Putin.”

Cohen says the key is what Trump will do. He criticizes Trump for the call to Zelensky referencing Biden, which he considers a “distraction,” and goes on:

“But the more important thing is ... I want to know if Trump encouraged Zelensky to continue the negotiation with Putin, and here’s why. Zelensky cannot go forward as I’ve explained. I mean, his life is being threatened literally by a quasi-fascist movement in Ukraine, he can’t go forward with full peace negotiations with Russia, with Putin, unless America has his back. Maybe that won’t be enough, but unless the White House encourages this diplomacy, Zelensky has no chance of negotiating an end to the war, so the stakes are enormously high.”

Cohen also points out that “there’s no transformative or decisive type of leadership in Europe,” while the current moment is a crucial turning point which must not be missed:

“I have a book called Lost Opportunities [Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War by Stephen F. Cohen]. There were moments in history, political history, when there’s an opportunity that is so good and wise and so often lost, the chance. So, the chance for Zelensky, the new President who had this very large victory, 70%-plus to negotiate with Russia an end to that war, it’s got to be seized. And it requires the United States, basically, simply saying to Zelensky, ‘Go for it, we’ve got your back.’ ”

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